The Best and Worst Christmas Stories
Last year The Root's contributors shared their best and worst holiday experiences. In some cases, the best and worst are indistinguishable.
By Jonathan Pitts-Wiley
My birthday is on Christmas, so as a kid, I consistently gave the side eye to people who lumped my gifts together. Thankfully, my parents were cool and always made a point of separating my birthday from the supposed birth of Christ. Greatest gift: the Jordans I got for my 8th birthday. I liked them so much, I fell asleep in them that night.
In my late teens I cared less about presents, so the best experiences revolved around listening to Freddy Jackson's Christmas CD while my family cooked and talked junk. Freddy Jackson. Who knew?
Stranded by a Boyfriend
By Afi-Odelia Scruggs
My worst Christmas: Dec. 25, 1983. I'll never forget the experience. My "boyfriend's" family had a dinner, and I wasn't invited. He didn't even ask because it would "make them uncomfortable." He promised to see me later.
So I sat alone in Richmond, where I had no family and few friends. I must have called my mother in Nashville 10 times that day -- and this was before we had unlimited long distance. There was no Webcam, no IM, nothing that allowed me to create a virtual presence. I was broke and lonely in my little apartment. I vowed it would never happen again.
I don't understand why I didn't drop him immediately. Blame it on love. The next year, when he wanted to spend time together on Christmas, I checked my schedule. By then, I'd started volunteering at the Virginia State Penitentiary, and I visited a couple of inmates whose families weren't able to see them. After that, I dropped by to see friends from the church I'd joined. I saw him later that day. Every year since, I've made plans for the day -- even if the plans are simply reading and relaxing.
A Period of Adjustment
By Michael E. Ross
A close friend from back in the day -- we'll call him J. -- resurfaced recently, after a rough patch in a personal wilderness in which darkness was truly visible. A mentor of mine, J. was a sounding board, a colleague, someone who seemed to navigate the velocities of Manhattan with ease, and a brother who made my journeyman's life in New York bearable -- and often enjoyable.
A few weeks ago, in the run-up to the frenzy of Christmas, I discovered from a mutual friend that J. had attempted to take his life. The particulars I'll keep to myself; suffice it to say that he was discovered and saved in time, and is just now rebounding after a period in a mental hospital.
We hadn't spoken for years: J. held his own in Manhattan; I moved west to California and, ultimately, Seattle, where the frequent trademark rain paints everything a seasonal gray. "How can you stand it out there, with rain all the time?" he once said to me by phone.
"You adjust," I told him.
I've made peace with the weather in the Pacific Northwest; lately I've fortified myself against today's emotional weather, a certain predisposition toward gloom that seems to tarnish everything. As we limp toward the finale of 2009, it's hard to beat back that sense of impermanence, the feeling that nothing lasts.